View Full Version : Soccer Hooligans as a force multiplier

04-13-2011, 01:06 AM
Who'd have thunk it?

A major Egyptian group of ultras, fanatical soccer fans who played a key role in the toppling of President Hosni Mubarak and was developing into a powerful political pressure group, invaded the pitch during their team’s crucial African Champions League match against Tunisia’s Club Africain in a stunning reversal of their fortunes.

Ultras White Knights (UWK), the highly organized radical fan group of crowned Cairo club Zamalek SC, stormed Cairo International Stadium’s soccer pitch in the 90th minute of the game disrupting the match, destroying goal posts and everything else in their path.

UWK leaders, who had put on a well-oiled display of support for Zamalek with flares, fireworks, 70-meter long banners and smoke guns, said the disruption reflected the growing influence of hooligans within the group.


04-13-2011, 12:21 PM
Egypt's ultras go from football to politics (http://english.ahram.org.eg/~/NewsContent/1/64/9591/Egypt/Politics-/Egypts-ultras-go-from-football-to-politics.aspx)

With their incessant chants and synchronized displays of colourful support in the stands, Egyptian football’s ultras have assumed an important role for their respective clubs over the past few years. More recently, however, their influence and presence have moved beyond the stadium walls, even if their trademark immaturity remains.

Made up of thousands of dedicated teenagers and young men, united by the love of their team, the controversial ultras have risen to become one of the most powerful and organized bodies in Egypt. While their true purpose is in cheering their team and taunting its opponents, their impact on a political level is not to be ignored.

Ultras Ahlawy and Zamalek’s White Knights played a notable role in the January 25 Revolution. At the forefront of the street battles, their experience in clashing with Central Security forces came in handy when the former regime decided to adopt a violent approach to disperse the protesters in the early days of the uprising.

Their presence was felt during the 18-day revolt, even though both controversial football firms (hardcore supporter groups) barely have any political awareness or beliefs. Officially, Ultras Ahlawy and the White Knights had no certain attitude towards the revolution. No ultras’ leaders told younger members to take part in the bloody demonstrations, but some went to the battle of their own accord ...

A Mubarak-era BBC Doc on Egyptian football clubs (http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/documentaries/2010/06/100603_the_power_and_the_passion.shtml)and their political background, focusing on Zamalek and El Ahly, including a segment on the ultras. Click on "Part Two".

It's 12 December 2009, the day of the Cairo derby. Billed as a violent clash of the two oldest clubs in Egypt, I arrive to find the fixture overshadowed by the national hysteria of Egypt’s failure to qualify for the World Cup at the hands or feet of hated rivals Algeria.

It’s a clue to what football means to many millions across the nation. It's one of the few legitimate areas of expression and emotion - in a heavily policed society where frustrations are many and outlets few.

Traditionally Zamalek have been tied to the Egypt of the past, to royalty and the world before the coming of Gamal Abdul Nasser. Al Ahly are literally "the nation" - seemingly the expression of national will. Set up deliberately in opposition to British rule and as a place to gather like-minded individuals against foreign rule.

When Nasser came to power he chose Al Ahly as the club to be run by one of his close military allies, although Nasser himself seemingly had little enthusiasm for football. Both clubs are the elite of North African football, shrouded in domestic and African honours - whilst the Egyptian league remains financially stable and able to retain its best players ...

04-13-2011, 05:49 PM
I am sure football gangs have acted as a 'force multiplier' before for political protest, usually not for mass movements as in Egypt, but extreme right wing / nationalist groups in Russia and the UK for two examples.

In this instance were the Ultra's combat skills available when the confrontations with the riot police occurred or after they retreated?

When rioting emerges from public protest the presence of groups like the Ultras will make a dramatic difference, for their discipline, experience and sheer delight in fighting. Crowds may waver when the state responds to the start of a riot, at that moment the Ultras provide a shell of protection as the crowd decides what to do.

04-14-2011, 02:47 AM
Check out the blues and the greens from Byzantium. They were two factions of chariot racing fans who got into politics. Fascinating that is still happens.


That last paragraph of yours was a very good analysis.

04-14-2011, 03:07 PM
Very good article in MERIP that outlines the basic history of the Egyptian protests and reminds us of how huge and nationwide the movement really was, as opposed to the very Tahrir-centric view we got in the West from our Cairo-based Western news media.

The soccer clubs were a very small part of a very large nationwide movement - what the author calls a "strong society" that was increasingly well-versed in confronting the Egyptian state. Mao would have called it a "dry field" waiting for the spark.

The Praxis of the Egyptian Revolution (http://www.merip.org/mer/mer258/praxis-egyptian-revolution)

Egypt’s momentous uprising did not happen because Egyptians willed it into being. It happened because there was a sudden change in the balance of resources between rulers and ruled. Mubarak’s structures of dominion were thought to be foolproof, and for 30 years they were. What shifted the balance away from the regime were four continuous days of street fighting, January 25–28, that pitted the people against police all over the country. That battle converted a familiar, predictable episode into a revolutionary situation. Decades ago, Charles Tilly observed that one of the ways revolutions happen is that the efficiency of government coercion deteriorates. That decline occurs “when the character, organization and daily routines of the population to be controlled change rapidly.” [5] (http://www.merip.org/mer/mer258/praxis-egyptian-revolution#_5_) The organization and daily routines of the Egyptian population had undergone significant changes in the years preceding the revolt. By January 25, 2011, a strong regime faced a strong society versed in the politics of the street. In hindsight, it is simple to pick out the vulnerabilities of the Mubarak regime and arrange them in a neat list as the ingredients of breakdown. But that retrospective temptation misses the essential point: Egyptians overthrew a strong regime ...